Revelations that radioactive waste may have been entering the Yarra River for decades has prompted some of Victoria’s major environment groups* to call for Premier Brumby and the EPA to immediately halt Yarra dredging until an investigation has been completed.

Harry van Moorst, spokesperson for WREC says "Dredging should stop immediately until there can be a guarantee of no human health or biodiversity impacts from radioactive materials.”

506 Lorimer Street Port Melbourne, a government owned site, is less than 100 metres from the Yarra River. From the 1940s to 1960s, Uranium processing and experimental research on other radioactive materials such as partially stabilised Zirconium, Yttrium, Thorium and Hafnium occurred on the site now occupied by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.

A 1983 Government Report and recent information confidentially disclosed by a former worker indicates that a number of former employees at the Lorimer Street site have died from, or are suffering from cancer.

The reports reveal that radioactive materials were found buried onsite in an open garden area, a car park, in buildings, and in a drain that probably led to the Yarra. Decontamination works were restricted to within the site perimeter and did not include assessing the nearby Yarra bank or sediments. Almost ten thousand 200-litre drums of radioactive waste were taken from the site, some of it highly contaminated.

Despite direction from the 2005 EES Panel Hearing that historical research of Yarra sediments should be undertaken for ‘hotspots’ and the public raising concerns about radioactive contamination during the 2007 SEES Channel Deepening Inquiry, the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) has never provided surveys for radioactive contamination of Yarra River sediments.

The 2007 SEES Inquiry Report records that the PoMC declared it had advice from “regulatory authorities and other sources” that surveying for radionuclides (and dioxins/furans) was not necessary. The PoMC did not provide any documentation to support that claim. The Inquiry did not pursue the issue further.

 Jenny Warfe, spokesperson for Blue Wedges said “Regulatory bodies have avoided surveying for radionuclide in the Yarra sediments despite reports detailing their likely existence”.

Ms Warfe went on to say “People have the right to know whether they will be swimming in radioactive waste”.


*Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), Friends of the Earth (FoE), Western Region Environment Centre (WREC), Port Phillip Conservation Council and Blue Wedges.



Next page: Media Releases